Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm Back But Some People Are Smelling Like Shit

I have been away for quite a while, slightly more than a month but I don't feel I have missed much anyway. Kenya is still Kenya, the usual shenanigans over appointments, Mau, starvation, power games etc. Of these, one thing that has aroused strong feelings is the debate on Mau conservation. It's been painful watching one set of politicians open their foul mouths to once again use their communities to defend their corruption while another set retreat from doing their work because of political considerations, their rhetoric notwithstanding. It is someone who lives on another planet that still needs to be convinced of the urgency to save the Mau complex, and other water towers. I almost threw up when the former president Moi opened his mouth to comment on the same issue, the very person who had 24 years to right any wrong as far as our environment was concerned. It also sickens me to hear his defenders come out daily saying what a marvelous job he is doing...this is one guy who should consider himself lucky to be still walking about freely...

...Then there is Ringera but the less said about that the better!

In both these cases, the people who come out smelling like shit are:

On Mau...(Raila, W. Ruto, I. Ruto and the Kalenjin MPs, arap Moi and Kibaki)

On Ringera...(Kibaki, Mutula Kilonzo, Kalonzo, Ringera, Martha Karua)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kikuyunizing Our Failures and Successess

Blame it on the Kikuyus. Going round the country discussing the root causes of the post election violence, nearly everybody except the Kikuyus, seem to think that the Kikuyus are the problem in this country. Of course this is rather disturbing to anybody who might have a clear grasp of what the genesis and nature of our problems are. Here are a few charges I have heard labeled against the Kikuyu:
1. The Kikuyus think that they are the ones born to lead. In some of the workshops I have attended, people are quick to point out that Kikuyus think they are born to lead and use the fact that Kikuyus have never voted en mass for a presidential candidate from another community since the advent of competitive multi party politics in the early 90s.
2. None Kikuyus cannot own land or successful businesses in Central province. Kikuyus have refuted this claim but I still wait for tangible examples.
3. Kikuyus "ate" during Kenyatta's regime, specifically benefiting from the former 'white highlands' and have also benefited from Kibaki's era. It is worth noting that nobody explains exactly how they have benefited from Kibaki's time. The yardstick for this is that a lot of senior government jobs were given to the Kikuyus but exactly how does that benefit the Kikuyus as a community?

These are just but some of the accusations that I hear left right and center but the main sticking point, especially in the Rift Valley, Western Province and Coast is the issue of land. on the other hand, I have also heard Kikuyus explain how they are the engine of this country, producing most of the food that we eat and generally propelling the economy. When Kikuyu leaders have been in charge of the country, the economic performance has been generally good, compared to the Moi era. My point here is not to vilify or praise the Kikuyus but my concern is that if this sweeping anti-Kikuyu sentiment (especially upcountry-- it is not so noticeable in the cities) continues to grow, we might be looking at a time when people will be determined to cleanse out the Kikuyus. Could this be leading to the making of an atmosphere conducive to genocide? In Mumias for example, we heard sentiments that "this time we shall not wait for the elections to get rid of the Kukuyus"...meanwhile I am aware that there was a ministry created to promote national cohesion. I wonder who the minister is. If we are to address the real mabadiliko in this country, we need to start confronting these issues.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

WAJIBU: Public Debate, 2 July

WAJIBU is a quarterly journal that has been published in Kenya since 1985. It is unique among Kenyan journals in that it has consistently focused on social, economic, political and ethical issues that are topical, relevant and of common concern. It has invited a wide variety of thinkers, coming from many different backgrounds to contribute to the debate on these issues. WAJIBU is also special in not-for-profit journals in that it has managed to be published for now nearly 24 years without regular donor funding.

Each issue of Wajibu addresses a different theme; previous issues have focused on the environment, the role of women, education, characteristics of good leaders, work ethics and working conditions, the role of NGOs in development, the lifestyle of the young, crime and punishment, globalisation, the information society, ingredients of a just society, memory and identity, values for a planet in turmoil.

We at WAJIBU wish to invite you to a public debate on a topic of concern to us all.

Since the events brought about by the 2007 election fiasco, there have been many voices in Kenya calling for a complete change of direction in our country. At the same time there have been calls for all Kenyans of good will to come together and provide alternative leadership.
However, there is no consensus of how change is to be brought about and who will provide the alternative leadership.

Might active non-violence be an answer and help us on the road towards a just society?
We invite you to join us in this debate.

Towards a just society in Kenya: non-violent options

*Date: 2 July 2009, 6.00 pm.
Place: Goethe Institut, Loita/Monrovia streets

Speakers: Mwalimu Mati, Philo Ikonya
Moderator: Paul Oyier
If you should be unable to attend, please become a subscriber, renew your subscription if you are already a subscriber, subscribe for a friend, a school or an institution or make a donation to assure the future of the journal.

Current and previous issues of the journal will be for sale at the function.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Regaining Trust: Our Challenge

Recently I went through the Rift Valley attending several workshops on peace-building among the communities that were hard hit by the post election violence. The good thing was that this was not your usual workshop crowd but rather the average Kenyan, people who were both victims and perpetrators of the violence. One thing that hit me was when one participant in Nakuru said that one of the effects of the violence was that communities have lost trust in one another. If this is truly the case, then I am worried for our future...but again I am not surprised.

I can however say that I am disappointed at the lack of urgency in addressing this fundamental issue. How can we live with each other if we don't trust each other? While this a situation that your typical Kenyan politician will relish, as they can play on our fears for the sake of garnering votes, it takes a scary dimension when one considers a recent research finding by Media Focus on Africa that stated that a significant number of people are ready and willing to fight again. This is corroborated by sentiments in one of the workshops where some participants stated that next time they will get rid of all the Kikuyus in their area, while in yet another workshop, a lady participant said that she could not believe that she is actually seated in the same room with members from another community that had chased her from where she previously lived during the violence of early last year. It took a lot of pleading from other workshop participants to cool her down.

I don't have the answers to what needs to be done, but this is something that we all need to ponder about.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Inter-Tribal Dialogue...Pushing Agenda 4

Media Focus on Africa Foundation is currently running a program on Citizen TV called Fist To Five for Change. Hosted by Julie Gichuru, the program is supposed to be providing a platform for inter-tribal dialogue, addressing some of the root causes of the post election violence and exploring solutions, all from a wananchi point of view. The good thing with this program is that all the participants are your common wananchi and it avoids the usual politicians or experts who we are so used to seeing on the idiot box. The project runs a rotation of three programs, with each set of three programs looking at underlying issues and proposing solutions. The first program featured people from Kibera and Mathare slums and the one currently showing features participants from Nakuru and Naivasha. Other programs will involve participants from Eldoret, Kisumu and Mombasa.

It is indeed refreshing to watch your kawaida wananchi express issues in a plain language that mainstream personalities in the media avoid tackling head on. Participants will say in plain terms "Kikuyus are like this and this...or Luos are like this and this..." etc. However one issue I have against the program is the use of Julie Gichuru as it's anchor. Maybe the producers wanted a star name to attract viewers but given her obvious limitation of swahili, it forces the participants to struggle to express themselves in English and you feel something is lost. A Swahili facilitator would be ideal for this.

Of interest also is that Media Focus is taking episodes of this program on the road. They have engaged FilmAid International to conduct 48 mass outdoor screenings in Kibera, Mathare, Nakuru, Naivasha, Mumias, Kisumu, Eldoret and Mombasa, as well as a series of 48 one day workshops in these locations, basically to provide a forum for people from different tribes to debate issues on conflict resolution. It is good to note that despite perceived government apathy or lack of urgency, there are others who are taking agenda 4 seriously.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Emperor Nero Fiddles...How Lovely!

Once again, we are being treated to another circus by the Government but even a good comedy get boring when overdone! In our sense it is now frustrating. A lot of people I interact with, from both sides of the political divide, seem fed up by Kenyan politicians. People who only a year ago would give an arm for Raila are now fed up with the ODM brinkmanship, and those who were willing to die for Kibaki cannot also understand the PNU arrogance and detachment from the common mwananchi. The priority now is to set up oneself for 2012, with those with certain advantages seeking to consolidate their positions and those looking like lagging behind trying to set themselves up to a vantage position. But what seems lost on this coterie is that there might be no Kenya as they know it to govern come 2012.

There are two events that happened in the last 1 month that I noticed did not draw the kind of outrage that I thought it would, and I was a bit disappointed. Actually it was one event but two issues. First there was the talk of the Kikuyu - Kalenjin alliance. Granted, a few politicians came out to talk against it but it seems as if it was more from the point of selfish political alliances. The so called civil society barely commented. It was in this context that the MP for Kamukunji, a rather dodgy character (and stupid I may add) by the name Mbugua (I no longer acknowledge them as honorable) talked of the evil from Lake Victoria that had confused their brothers the Kalenjin. That he was not hauled into custody for such an irresponsible remark is not surprising - this is Kenya - but the lack of outrage against this remark given the context that the country is coming from was telling. We are not in a hurry to sort ourselves out.

Meanwhile the ODM and PNU fools continue to squabble over who should eat what as the country continues to stagger towards the brink of chaos. The reform agenda has been hijacked by partisan interests, public anger at political mismanagement continues to swell, the economic crisis begins to bite...

I am writing this out of frustration but my biggest frustration is the lack of organization by alternative voices to craft together a coherent alternative agenda for the country. You turn on the TV and you find the Chinedu-Akinyi drama instead. And the opinion poll question on NTV prime time news is who do you believe, Akinyi or Chinedu? Now I know what it felt like when Nero fiddled!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Of Mungiki and Human Rights

Now I can afford to speak (or is it write?) now that the dust is settling down. Over the last few days, there has been a lot being written about Mungiki and Human Rights activitists, with human rights activists on one hand condemning the extra judicial killings of people mainly suspected to be mungiki adherents and others commending the work that the police are doing in 'eliminating' mungiki. I hold no brief for the human rights NGOs and neither do I admire Mungiki. What I strive to do is to understand where they are all coming from.

Kenyans have for long taken the Mungiki phenomenon at face value, easily dismissing it as criminal outfit that should be dealt with by force. There was a round of condemnation when Raila initially suggested that the governement should dialogue with Mungiki. The mungiki thing seemed to die only to emerge once one UN professor had dished out his findings on extra judicial killings. And this is what worries me. I remember sometimes back, there was a heavy handed operation aainst the Mungiki that looked to have dealt with the menace. Then they re-emerged during what we call the PEV. What we are seeing is an organization that seems to weather the storm and survive with its core intact, perhaps even stronger. It is therefore foolhardy to beleive that one murderous operation against the young men of central province will eliminate this. By going on an unlawful terror spree against Mungiki, the government admits that it has no idea on how to deal with this. If any government can no longer protect its people, it has no business being in power.

There is a callous arguement that has done the rounds that human rights activists only speak when police gun down the mungikis but are silent when the mungikis murder innocent people. It is the work of the goverment to protect its citizens against the excesses of criminals...and it is the work of the civil society to shout when the government metes excesses on its citizens. For those cheering loudly when the police gun down people in disregard to the law, I am sure they have never been at the wrong place at the wrong time. We cannot cry against the culture of impunity today and tomorrow commend the police for extra-judicial killings, we have to be consistent in our values, otherwise there is no difference between us and the politicians we condemn everyday.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wanted: A Brave Man for some Brave Deeds

Kenya is looking for a brave man who can shake up things and do what is needed towards setting our nation on the right track towards a more just society. The problem with our current leaders is that they lack the bravery to take action and upset the current order of things. The reason is that they actually owe their existence to this order and must pay their due by maintaining status quo. Kibaki and Raila have shown their weaknesses when it comes to making these key decisions. Initially there was the dithering in implementing the Waki report. I am sure a whole can of worms might open once some important people are put on trial but we need to be brave enough to face what might happen. In my view, it is better to deal with this, even though it might swallow us, and put an end to that chapter once and for all.

One of the most ridiculous things I read this week was that the PSC on reforms passed over Koki Muli's name for the position of chairperson of the Interim Election body because the predecessor was from the same community as her. I am not saying she should have had the job but surely, can this be the justification to pass over someone for appointment if he/she is the best qualified? We need leaders who can make such brave yet simple choices!

Yesterday the UN guy released his report on extra-judicial police killings. In his report he recommended the sacking of the Police Commissioner and the AG. Again, a decision like that is going to be too much for Kibaki and yet this offers us a perfect chance to reform the police force and the judiciary. The current lot of leaders are too afraid to shake things up, and using the excuse of ethnicity to cover up their cowardice!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why Are We Sanitizing Moi?

Is it just me or are we on a mission to clean-up Moi? I have noticed that the chap has once more become a feature on our screens, especially KTN and is all over preaching peace and reconcialition, telling us how to get out of the mess that he and his cronies created in the first place. To cap it all, the bugger was a keynote speaker in the "Kenya We Want" forum held recently. He had the powers to help create the Kenya we want for 24 years when he was at the helm. How can Moi of all the people tell us about the future (when he is not going to be there?)!

We talk about a culture of impunity but Kenynas are very quick to rehabilitate our bad men. I know that maybe our current lot are making Moi's stuff look like kids play but we should not forget the fact that the guy was dictator, freedoms that we got during his tenure was bought by blood. This country was looted dry, corruption became a way of life and we were managed by gluttons and murderers. We should not allow ourselves to forget these facts if we want to change this country, or else in the next election we shall be hailing the likes of Kiraitu and Ruto as our saviours. This might look farfetched now but in 2002 did we not cheer the likes of Saitoti, Ntimama and Kalonzo simply because they crossed over from the Moi project?

When you tune into your TV over the weekend, you will see Moi strutting his stuff in some village in the Rift Valley, a battery of journalists in his wake and Kenyans giving him their attention. I will tune in to Channel 5 and watch Tanzanian music.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Need To See Beyond The Chameleons!!!

I have realized that Kenyan politicians have perfected the art of changing like chameleons, and we Kenyans are gullible for it. It is very easy for our politicians to move from hero to zero to hero and back to zero again, with us cheering or jeering them loudly in the process. The same people who were quick to dismiss Musalia in 2002 were quick to cheer him in 2007 simply because he was now on the 'right' side. Likewise, Kenyans who had dismissed Uhuru as Nyayo's project were cheering him loudly when he teamed up with the likes of Raila during the referendum days, cheers that turned to jeers when he later declared support for Kibaki and said Kazi Iendelee. It has not been lost to me that some ODM fans that hated Karua for her guts during the electioneering period are now praising her for having the guts to stand up against PNU.

We know that our politicians will not be consistent but what prevents us from being consistent? The whole political thing is becoming like a wrestling soap opera, where our allegiance changes according to the changes in the script. And it is the media that plays out this sorry state to us, hoping to keep us hooked with political intrigues of changing alliances. This is really the reason the Sunday papers exist for (apart from reporting on weekend sports).

The only way I can get out of this bondage is by realising that the political class is really just the political class. fullstop. Recently I was in a forum where people tried to argue that Moi was a good president, corruption was limited during his tenure, ministers towed the line, Kenyans did not hack each other, tribalism was checked and he handed over power to peaceful, MPs did not increase their salaries obscenely and that there was a tolerated level of democracy and expression (I breathed easy when I realized that most of these contributors only developed political awareness after section 2A was repeled). I tried to imagine how those who had actually had their husbands or wifes or sons detained and killed during the Moi error for subscribing to alternative views would react to that. Or will they see what is happening today and say Moi was good?

That is our curse. We quickly forget our pain and in 2012, we are once again prepared to welcome those who caused us so much pain in the past simply because they have changed their colour. We need to see beyond the chameleon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I want to Vomit

This year has found me almost declaring a total boycott of mainstream media. I have however decided for the time being not to watch the news, especially the so-called prime time news. Reason? Everytime I watch the news, especially what is happening on the political scene, I actually feel depressed and my evening is done. I find that I can no longer even speak to my wife. When I saw that Kimunya had been re-appointed, I felt sick, I wanted to vomit. And as if that was not enough, I see Raila saying on TV saying that ODM was not party to that...please excuse us!! Why not take a walk if you are principled?

It is very painfully seeing all this nonesense going around with our politicians yet feeling like there is nothing that you can do. Kenya has become a place that not even public demonstrations are tolerated. You huddled together 5 people in the middle of town and the next thing you know is that the police will be lobbying teargas. I will not be surprised if one of these days I hear that tear gas has mistakenly been fired at a sports event or a religious gathering as there seems to be a very deep fear of crowds by this PNU/ODM dictatorship.

I know it is diabolical to wish harm to others but several a time I have found a smile on my face when I have imagined a terrorist bombing in parliament when all our thugs are gathered there. Apologies for the rant!